To clean the teats and to stimulate milk flow, the Lely Astronaut robot uses two brushes. In addition to the teats, the brushes also clean the underside of the udder. After pre-stimulation of every cow, the brushes are disinfected to avoid cross-contamination.
Adequate stimulation of the teats is important to have a good start to the milking process. A rapid increase in milk flow rate and a continuous milk flow rate at the start of milking will increase the capacity of the robot, reduce the risk of overmilking (where the robot is still milking even though milk is no longer secreted from the udder) and reduce the amount of residual milk (the milk that remains in the udder after milking) due to teat congestion.
An advantage of automatic milking with the Lely Astronaut is that the teat cups are removed per quarter based on milk speed (since milk yield and milk speed per quarter can differ). Teat cup removal at udder level results in more variation between quarters regarding overmilking or residual milk, compared to teat cup removal at quarter level (Boloña & Upton, 2020). Teat cup removal at quarter level helps in preventing overmilking or an incomplete milking.
Overmilking can result in a poorer teat condition or teat-end hyperkeratosis (Hillerton et al., 2002). Teat-end hyperkeratosis increases the risk of infection of the mammary gland (Cerqueira et al., 2018) for both clinical and subclinical mastitis and therefore an increased somatic cell count (SCC) (Pantoja et al., 2020). With the Lely Astronaut, quarters are milked individually. Milking quarters individually minimises overmilking and is positive for udder health (Persson Waller et al., 2003).
Incomplete milking (where milk remains in the udder after milking) results in more residual milk. Cows that leak milk are at higher risk for new infections compared to cows that do not (Klaas et al., 2005). Incomplete milking leads to a higher somatic cell count (Penry et al., 2017).
Collecting milk speed data per quarter supports the Lely Astronaut in ensuring a milking is completed. Carrying out a complete milking by simulating the teats sufficiently and taking off the teat cups at the right time helps maintain the udders of your cows in an optimum condition and therefore benefits udder health at your farm.
Boloña, P. S., & Upton, J. (2020). Effects of simulated quarter and udder teat cup removal settings on strip milk and milking duration in dairy cows. Journal of Dairy Science, 103(5), 4446–4454. https://doi.org/10.3168/jds.2019-17266
Cerqueira, J. L., Araújo, J. P., Cantalapiedra, J., & Blanco-Penedo, I. (2018). How is the association of teat-end severe hyperkeratosis on udder health and dairy cow behavior? Revue de Medecine Veterinaire, 169(1–2), 30–37.
Hillerton, J. E., Pankey, J. W., & Pankey, P. (2002). Effect of over-milking on teat condition. Journal of Dairy Research, 69(1), 81–84. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0022029901005386
Klaas, I. C., Enevoldsen, C., Ersbøll, A. K., & Tölle, U. (2005). Cow-Related Risk Factors for Milk Leakage. Journal of Dairy Science, 88(1), 128–136. https://doi.org/10.3168/JDS.S0022-0302(05)72670-9
Pantoja, J. C. F., Correia, L. B. N., Rossi, R. S., & Latosinski, G. S. (2020). Association between teat-end hyperkeratosis and mastitis in dairy cows : A systematic review. Journal of Dairy Science, 103(2), 1843–1855. https://doi.org/10.3168/jds.2019-16811
Penry, J. F., Endres, E. L., Bruijn, B. De, Kleinhans, A., Crump, P. M., Reinemann, D. J., & Hernandez, L. L. (2017). Effect of incomplete milking on milk production rate and composition with 2 daily milkings. Journal of Dairy Science, 100(2), 1535–1540. https://doi.org/10.3168/jds.2016-11935
Persson Waller, K., Westermark, T., Ekman, T., & Svennersten-Sjaunja, K. (2003). Milk Leakage—An Increased Risk in Automatic Milking Systems. Journal of Dairy Science, 86(11), 3488–3497. https://doi.org/10.3168/JDS.S0022-0302(03)73953-8